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To ensure that essential government services are available in emergencies--such as terrorist attacks, severe weather, or building-level emergencies--federal agencies are required to develop continuity of operations (COOP) plans. Responsibility for formulating guidance on these plans and for assessing executive branch COOP capabilities lies with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), under the Department of Homeland Security. FEMA guidance, Federal Preparedness Circular (FPC) 65 (July 1999), identifies elements of a viable COOP capability, including the requirement that agencies identify their essential functions. This statement summarizes the findings of a February 2004, GAO report, for which GAO was asked to determine the extent to which (1) major civilian executive branch agencies have identified their essential functions and (2) these agencies' COOP plans follow FEMA guidance.

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